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Atalanta vs Milan Preview: will either give way to Juventus in the top four?

Atalanta are currently second in the Serie A standings going into the final game of the season and it would take a disaster for them to finish outside of the top four. Whilst Inter won the Scudetto and Atalanta look good for the runner-up spot, Milan, Napoli and Juventus are battling it out for the other two UCL spots. To make matters all the more tense, Atalanta will host the red half of Milan at the Stadio di Bergamo with a bitter taste in their mouth after mid-week failure in the Coppa Italia final against Juventus. Gasperini versus Pioli, Atalanta versus AC Milan, all is still to play for, here is a preview of this blockbuster bash…

Juventus celebrating their Coppa Italia final success over Atalanta
Juventus celebrating their Coppa Italia final success over Atalanta (Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Gasperini’s Atalanta have been a breathe of fresh air on the European stage in the last few years yet they still don’t seem to get the praise they deserve. Whilst Milan have star-studded names like Ibrahimovic, the same going for Ronaldo at Juve and the hefty price tag that saw Victor Osimhen join Napoli from Lille, Atalanta are much more low-key but equally effective. Atalanta are three points ahead of fifth placed Juve and have a much better goal difference as it stands- if they were to loss to the Rossoneri and then Napoli matched or bettered the result of Pirlo’s side, the reining champions would miss out on the top four.

Napoli forward Victor Osimhen
Napoli forward Victor Osimhen (Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

Milan’s season could end in two very different manners; whether they break the record for most away wins in a season or they become only the second ever side to miss out on the top four after being crowned as the so-called Winter Champions. Whilst Milan have the tough test of a trip to Bergamo, Napoli face a Hellas Verona side whose surprising form has tailed of and Juve play mid-table Bologna. This most likely means then that Milan will have to go and prise all three points from the grasp of Gasperini’s Atalanta, something that they won’t be afforded without a real battle first. Talking of battles and that is exactly what took place when the pair met in the reverse fixture, Romero, Ilicic and then Duvan Zapata all scoring for La Dea at the San Siro.

Atalanta's Colombian forward Duvan Zapata celebrating in their 3-0 win over Atalanta earlier this season
Atalanta and Colombia forward Duvan Zapata celebrating in their 3-0 win over Atalanta earlier this season (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)

In terms of other results for Atalanta and given their position in the table, the majority have obviously been positive. Prior to their Coppa Italia heartbreak, one has to go back to early March to find their last domestic loss; Slovakian defender Milan Skriniar scoring the only goal in a huge game for Inter’s title credentials. Since then, they won 3-2 away at Fiorentina with braces from Zapata and Dusan Vlahovic before then also beating the Bianconeri, Malinovskiy’s deflected strike at the death breaking the hearts of Juventus fans everywhere. Going on from that Atalanta have put five past Bologna and Parma, Malinovskiy and Miranchuk scoring one in each along with Muriel scoring three across the two emphatic victories.

Atalanta's man-in-form Ruslan Malinovskiy
The man-in-form for Atalanta Ruslan Malinovskiy (Photo by Isabella Bonotto/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

On the flipside, Milan’s form has been very different in 2021 to what they enjoyed before Christmas, a title race with their city rivals quickly changing to a scrap for top four. Talking of Inter and with the title already wrapped up, Conte’s side did AC no favours by losing to Juventus last time out, the Nerazzurri continue to rub in this success whilst thwarting their bitter enemies in the process. They themselves faced Juve recently and it was a truly stellar performance; Ante Rebic and Brahim Diaz with stunning strikes before Chelsea loanee Fikayo Tomori headed home to complete a 3-0 masterclass. The first two of the aforementioned three were then again on target as Pioli’s side put seven past Juve’s neighbours Torino, Rebic netting a hat-trick there. In and around these dominant displays have been some underwhelming results though, their last game ending goalless against Cagliari and losses to Lazio, Sassuolo and Napoli proceeding that.

Chelsea loanee Fikayo Tomori celebrates his first Serie A goal as Milan beat Juventus 3-0
Chelsea loanee Fikayo Tomori celebrates his first Serie A goal as Milan beat Juventus 3-0 (Photo by Sportinfoto/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

In terms of the players that we will and won’t see in action in Bergamo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the obvious omission, the Swedish forward still absent due to that knee injury. Pioli has been in this situation enough to be able to deal with it though and the form of Ante Rebic makes him an ideal replacement. Joining the Croat in the attacking third will surely be Real Madrid loanee Brahim Diaz and then probably Hakan Calhanoglu too with Saelemakers amongst those also fighting for a spot. On the other hand, German international Robin Gosens picked up a late knock in their mid-week cup defeat but he is still likely to play, Rafa Toloi’s suspension after a red card in the same game not applying to league fixtures. Viktor Kovalenko is one name who may not feature for Gasperini due to injury whilst Ilicic may remain on the bench, the form of Malinovskiy being hard to argue with alongside the Colombian strike duo Zapata and Muriel.

AC Milan's sidelined star Zlatan Ibrahimovic who will be missing against Atalanta tomorrow
AC Milan’s sidelined star Zlatan Ibrahimovic who will be missing against Atalanta tomorrow (Photo by Mattia Ozbot/Soccrates/Getty Images)

Atalanta have a lot less riding on this game with their UCL hopes pretty secure so it could go one of two ways; either the pressure unsettles Milan or they use that as motivation to secure a seismic three points. I think it’ll be tight and entertaining regardless, Juve dropping points would be perfect for Milan but that would certainly be an unlikely occurrence.

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